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Thread: The pharmaceutical industry's big bribe comes in

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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Thumbs down The pharmaceutical industry's big bribe comes in

    Sep. 14 2009 - 6:46 pm

    PhRMA’s Big Bribe Comes In
    The drug industry’s trade group plans to roll out a series of television advertisements in coming weeks specifically to support Senator Max Baucus’s health care overhaul proposal, according to an industry official involved in the planning.
    via Drug Makers to Back Baucus Plan With Ad Dollars – Prescriptions Blog – NYTimes.com.
    I’ve been completely out of the loop with the health care story these last week and half or so, out of touch actually with the entire earth (I’ve been on a deadline on another story), but upon returning to work today I began getting calls about some alarming maneuverings in congress. We’re apparently finally seeing delivery of the Big Bribe that President Obama and Rahm Emanuel extracted from that pharmaceutical industry in exchange for dropping drug-pricing reform in the health care bill.

    To recap: PhRMA, the lobbying arm of the pharmaceutical industry, earlier this year announced that it would be setting aside $150 million to pay for an ad campaign supporting the President’s health care bill.
    The deal was apparently struck in July, after former Louisiana congressman and current PhRMA chief Billy Tauzin (Rod Blagojevich’s underdog opponent in the upcoming semifinal match of the Corrupt Scumbag of the Century So Far tournament) met with Rahm and other Obama aides in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Also in attendance were representatives of the usual panoply of awful medical corporations, including Abbott laboratories, Merck, and Pfizer. It was in this meeting that the White House agreed to sell out health care reform in exchange for a few bucks to fund the next couple of election cycles.

    Tauzin, who has never been one for subtlety or finesse (he took his $2 million-a-year PhRMA job about ten seconds after he finished pushing through the Prescription Drug Benefit bill), stupidly later revealed some of the contents of that shady meeting, saying that the White House had “blessed” a plan involving the $150 million. He disclosed to reporters that he had extracted a promise from the White House to drop two important reforms: one, to allow the government to negotiate bulk rates for drugs in Medicare, and the other to permit the importation of cheap drugs from Canada (which was once an Obama campaign saw).

    The only problem with this plan, from the White House’s side, was that not all of the president’s fellow Democrats played along. Specifically, Energy and Commerce chair Henry Waxman put a provision in his health care bill that allowed the government to negotiate lower rates. If Waxman’s language were to be allowed to survive, it would queer the White House’s deal.

    So here’s what started happening to kill Waxman’s language. First of all, PhRMA started paying its bribe.

    The $150 million it committed to support Obama’s bill is now being rolled out in pro-reform ads, which are being aired mostly in the districts of freshman congressmen. The ads are cheesy, half-hearted tripe blandly supporting the weak-as-fuck remnants of Obama’s health care plan, an example being this “Eight Ways Health Reform Matters To You” ad that salutes the end of coverage denials for those with pre-existing conditions.

    Now we’re also seeing pressure from a group of freshmen and Blue Dogs, who have composed a letter to a quartet of House Committee chairs requesting that the Waxman language be removed from the health care bill and replaced with the PhRMA language, which happens to be the language the White House is pushing and which will appear in the Baucus bill in the Senate.
    The pro-PhRMA language retains the preposterous government subsidy to the pharmaceutical industry in the form of laws banning Medicare from negotiating market rates. It is completely useless and of no possible social benefit to anyone except pharmaceutical companies, but this group still managed to get 60 people to sign this letter.

    What does this letter say? Does it argue that the PhRMA language is better for America than the Waxman language? Does it say it will cost taxpayers less and provide cheaper drugs to more people? Hilariously, no. What it says is that this PhRMA language, while worse than the Waxman language, is not quite so bad as you think (it doesn’t save as much as the Waxman language, but it still has a 50 percent price reduction, which isn’t terrible!). Moreover, the letter says, substituting this language will help the bill get passed! Here’s the actual language, addressed primarily to Waxman:
    “Your efforts to remove this onerous burden on Medicare beneficiaries… are to be greatly commended. However the commitment by President Obama and the AARP to support legislation that would provide a 50 percent reduction is a dramatic step forward in helping fill the doughnut hole. Equally important, it moves us toward our goal of health care legislation.”
    In other words, your attempt to put in a real reform is cool and all, but PhRMA has us by the balls, so help us out.

    Interestingly, the congressmen who wrote the bill — former NFL bust Heath Shuler and Illinois Democrat Debbie Halvorson — did not post the letter on their web sites, which is very unusual. One guesses that they are not particularly proud of this particular bit of shameless whoring.

    Progressives this week are fighting to accumulate the votes needed to stop any health care bill that doesn’t have a public option. Hopefully they can stop this PhRMA payoff as well. If you’ve got a phone, call your congressman and give him/her hell about this…
    Matt Taibbi - Taibblog – PhRMA’s Big Bribe Comes In - True/Slant

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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Text of Shuler/Halvorsen Letter to Henry Waxman

    By: Jane Hamsher Monday September 14, 2009 10:56 pm

    FDL has obtained a copy of the letter written by Blue Dogs Debbie Halvorson and Heath Schuler and signed by 70 Democrats, asking the House committee chairs to substitute the language from the deal that the White House made with PhRMA for Henry Waxman's language in H.R. 3200. Matt Taibbi writes about it today:
    What does this letter say? Does it argue that the PhRMA language is better for America than the Waxman language? Does it say it will cost taxpayers less and provide cheaper drugs to more people? Hilariously, no. What it says is that this PhRMA language, while worse than the Waxman language, is not quite so bad as you think (it doesn’t save as much as the Waxman language, but it still has a 50 percent price reduction, which isn’t terrible!). Moreover, the letter says, substituting this language will help the bill get passed!
    PhRMA said it would commence its $150 million advertising campaign today in support of the Baucus bill. Later today it was announced that Baucus would introduce his proposal on Wednesday. They apparently feel like their deal with the White House was effectively memorialized in the Baucus bill.
    Text of the letter:
    July 9, 2009

    The Honorable Henry Waxman
    Chairman
    House Committee on Energy and Commerce
    2125 Rayburn House Office Building
    Washington, DC 20515

    The Honorable Frank Pallone
    Chairman
    House Committee on Energy and Commerce
    Subcommittee on Health
    2125 Rayburn House Office Building
    Washington, DC 20515

    The Honorable Charles Rangel
    Chairman
    House Committee on Ways and Means
    1102 Longworth House Office Building
    Washington, DC 20515

    The Honorable Pete Stark
    Chair
    House Committee on Ways and Means
    Subcommittee on Health
    1105 Longworth House Office Building
    Washington, DC 20515

    Dear Chairman Waxman, Chairman Rangel, Chairman Pallone and Chairman Stark:

    We have noted with interest President Obama's and the AARP's support of the Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus' announcement that he plans to include his Committee's health reform legislation that will provide a 50 percent discount to most Medicare beneficiaries on brand-name medicines when purchased in the coverage gap, or "doughnut hole."

    Like the President, we believe that as we discuss providing coverage for the uninsured, it is also critical that we make needed improvements in current coverage for Medicare beneficiaries. Specifically, we must address their high out-of-pocket drug costs in the Part D doughnut hole. Providing relief to seniors in the doughnut hole has been a priority for Democrats since the enactment of the Part D drug benefit, because research has shown that the gap in coverage often forces them to go without medicines and results in worse health outcomes.

    Your efforts to remove this onerous burden on Medicare beneficiaries and their families in the recently unveiled health reform legislation discussion draft are to be greatly commended. However, the commitment by President Obama and AARP to support legislation that would provide a 50 percent price reduction is a dramatic step forward in helping fill the doughnut hole. Equally important, it moves us toward our goal of health reform legislation -- to make sure all Americans have access to good, affordable health coverage.

    We urge you to substitute the President's proposal in your health reform legislation discussion draft. Not only would it deliver immediate savings to seniors, instead of slowly phasing out the doughnut hole over 10 years, it would not require the federal government to raise additional revenue, as is the case in the draft legislation This is important because as recently as December 2008 the Congressional Budget Office warned that expansion of drug price controls in Medicare Part D could result in potentially higher premiums for seniors.

    We thank you for your diligence in these matters and we look forward to working together on these issues.

    Sincerely,

    Heath Shuler
    Mike Ross
    Glenn Nye
    Michael Arcuri
    John Barrow
    Jim Himes
    Gerry Connolly
    Jason Altmire
    Steve Driehaus
    Lincoln Davis
    Christopher Carney
    Parker Griffith
    Melissa Bean
    Larry Kissell
    Kathy Dahlkemper
    Albio Sires
    Allen Boyd
    Jim Costa
    Kurt Schrader
    Leonard Boswell
    Walt Minnick
    Alan Grayson
    Travis Childers
    Michael Michaud
    Dennis Moore
    Corrine Brown
    Mike McIntyre
    Charlie Melancon
    Harry Mitchell
    Collin Peterson
    Dan Boren
    Bill Foster
    Paul Hodes
    Zachary Space
    David Wu
    Deborah Halvorson
    Donald Payne
    David Scott
    Charles Wilson
    Suzanne Kosmas
    Frank Kratovil
    Kendrick Meek
    Loretta Sanchez
    Ann Kirkpatrick
    Gary Peters
    Hank Johnson
    Bobby Bright
    Eric Massa
    Rush Holt
    John Adler
    John Tanner
    Gregory Meeks
    Carolyn McCarthy
    Tim Holden
    Joe Donnelly
    Michael McMahon
    Andre Carson
    Ben Chandler
    Al Green
    John Salazar
    Bennie Thompson
    Sanford Bishop
    Scott Murphy
    Jim Matheson
    Joe Baca
    Henry Cuellar
    Baron Hill
    Daniel Maffei
    Wm. Lacy Clay
    Adam Smith
    As Taibbi notes, the letter did not appear on either Shuler's or Halvorson's website, so they must not have been particularly proud of it.

    Donald Payne, Bennie Thompson, Eric Massa, Andre Carson, William Lacy Clay, Albio Sires and Corrine Brown are members of the Progressive Caucus and also signed the letter saying that they would vote against any bill that does not have a public option. It will be interesting to see if they sign on to the letter being circulated as part Rep. Grijalva's whip count effort this week.
    Campaign Silo » Text of Shuler/Halvorsen Letter to Henry Waxman

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